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DSEI: Defence Minister highlights UK innovation

Posted 14 September 2017 · Add Comment

Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin today announced some of the latest developments in UK defence innovation at the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition (DSEI 2017) in London.

Above: Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin today announced some of the latest developments in UK defence innovation.
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During her keynote speech on DSEI’s Innovation Day, the Defence Minister announced 25 winners of the MoD’s 'Last Mile' challenge.

Earlier in the year, the Minister challenged industry and academia to design pioneering technology to get vital supplies to soldiers on the front line. Developing systems for unmanned delivery of combat supplies will reduce the risk to troops and improve efficiency.

The challenge looked to draw on the rapid progress of the private sector in the development of delivery drones and automated deliveries. More than 140 organisations from small-and-medium-size-enterprises (SMEs) to large defence companies submitted entries.

Winning ideas include disposable supply trailers, autonomous hover-bikes and airborne vehicle ‘swarms’. Twenty five projects were chosen with a total contract value for this phase of almost £2 million, which will produce demonstrator models of the concepts for testing by UK personnel.

Part of the MoD’s £800 million Innovation Initiative and led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) with the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), the contracts are worth £3.5 million over three years.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said: "The Last Mile Challenge is a great example of how we are engaging with a real range of businesses and harnessing innovation to help our military right up to the front line. From these autonomous vehicles to next-generation body armour, we are investing our rising defence budget and £178 billion equipment plan in the technology that will keep our Armed Forces and the UK safe."

Courtesy Dstl

Dstl’s lead for the challenge, Peter Stockel, said: "The number and quality of the entries for this competition was outstanding and the competition was fierce. We chose the best from across the proposals to enable the system solutions we want for prototype demonstration and evaluation. This was a fully open competition, with many of those down-selected happening to come from the UK. This illustrates the strength of our national capability and the benefit of recent investments in this important and rapidly developing technology sector. However, it was great to also be able to pick some great propositions from around the world. The brief is to rapidly demonstrate system solutions which aim to reduce the logistic burden on our Armed Forces, provide new operational capability and reduce casualties; so we’re pleased with the response and keen to see the potential capability benefits being assessed by our military during AWE18."

With 141 international delegates from 60 countries, DSEI showcases British business and innovation across security and defence on the world stage. The Defence Minister toured the exhibition and in a key note speech, announced the latest investment in advanced equipment for the UK’s Armed Forces.

Building on ongoing work to cut red tape for SMEs, the Defence Minister also announced the launch of an overhauled Defence Suppliers Portal, which streamlines engaging and bidding for contracts with the MoD. Working more effectively with SMEs a key defence priority and the MoD has committed to spending 25% of procurement money with SME suppliers by 2020

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The Defence Minister also highlighted advanced combat clothing and body armour on display at DSEI 2017, as part of the Army’s 'Future Soldier Vision'. Working with partners including the Royal College of Art, the project is developing advanced textiles, stronger and lighter body armour and a new high-tech helmet with state-of-the-art communication systems.

The Future Soldier Vision (FSV) is part of the MoD’s plan to give British soldiers’ high-quality, cutting-edge equipment.

The Royal College of Art’s (RCA) researchers and designers worked on the clothing to ensure prototypes were fitted to the body, easy to run in and comfortable to wear. The RCA supplied a number of sets of prototype combat clothing which were assessed at the Specialist Weapons School, Warminster, to examine future uniform concepts.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said: "From new materials to high-tech helmets, innovation is all about giving our personnel the kit they need by working with world famous partners like the Royal College of Art. You might not expect the MOD to work with an art and design university, but it is this kind of non-traditional partnership which will keep our Armed Forces equipped with cutting edge technology."

MoD and Royal College of Art Collaborate on cutting-edge new uniform.
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So far, kit being designed for FSV includes advanced combat clothing, with new materials like four-way stretch ‘phase-change material’ and silent hook-and-loop pockets. The enhanced body armour will be stronger, as well as having a new high-tech helmet with state-of-the- art, built-in communication systems.

FSV aims to give industry an example of an integrated soldier system that balances military need with cutting-edge technology. This includes technology that delivers distributed power and data, scalable and integrated protection, augmented surveillance and target acquisition, and a range of functional fabrics incorporated into the clothing.

Head of Programme for Textiles and Reader in Smart Textiles at the RCA Anne Toomey said: "The RCA was pleased to have this opportunity to demonstrate how our innovative design approaches can enhance value and impact across sectors through optimising existing materials performance and fabrication.

"As the RCA grows its research activities to embrace new materials and fabrication technologies, we will be able to further extend this reach upstream. We plan to become the world’s first STEAM institution, operating a design-led approach to future innovation with materials through the development of our new Materials Science Research Centre."

Finally, the Defence Minister also announced the transformation of the Disposal Services Authority (DSA) into the Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA). DESA will generate revenue for the UK and build closer collaboration between UK industry and international customers, providing the best possible financial return to the UK taxpayer.

Today’s announcements come after a range made by the Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon yesterday including bomb disposal robots.


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